April 14th, 2019
Pastor Tom Schulz
Dear Friends in Christ,
The congregation in Philippi was filled with outstanding people. Paul’s letter to them rejoices in all the positive ways they were serving Christ. He rejoices in their generosity and in their love for him.
Yet that doesn’t mean the members were perfect. No, not by any stretch of the imagination. So here he reminds them of simple Christian virtues. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”
We are no different. We may have many laudable virtues as believers in Jesus. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need regular reminders. Paul begins our text for today with this simple statement: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” So, we can say
HAVE THE SAME ATTITUDE AS YOUR KING
I. As Jesus came into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he did so riding on the foal of a donkey. Jesus was not ashamed to be humble. Do you have that willingness to be humble?
Paul describes Christ’s humility: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage.” Think about what Jesus gave up when he came to earth. He gave up his position of power at the right hand of God. He gave up his heavenly glory while here on earth. He emptied himself of any pretension. “He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Jesus became one of us.
Oh, yes, he still had access to his divine power whenever he needed it. His miracles show that. The fact that he could look into people’s minds and know their plans demonstrate that his power was always at hand. But Jesus willingly laid it all aside in order to be the Savior we needed.
Do we act the same way? Or do we abuse the power and the authority we have been given? It is tempting to pull rank on people. What does that mean? “I’m in charge so I can tell you what to do.” That’s not the humility of Jesus. He teaches us to lead by example. In college, one of my classmates was the son of the synod president. One day that president came to our dorm to pick up his son. While he was waiting, he noticed that the steps to the second floor were a mess. So he found a broom and started sweeping the steps. When the dorm supervisor saw him, he protested, “That’s not something a synod president should be doing.” President Naumann simply said, “It needs to be done.” This is humble service.
For Jesus it meant serving even to the point of being a slave. The Greek word that is commonly translated “servant” has as its root meaning, ‘slave.’ That’s how humble Jesus was.
He is God, yet he did not use his rank to line his own pockets as many people in power do today. He is God, yet he did not live in luxury during his time on earth. He lived in humble obedience to his heavenly Father.
He followed the plan that was ordained for him. He became fully human, which means he is subject to death. Paul says, “Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.” On Good Friday, we remember how Jesus humbly bore our sins as he carried his cross toward Calvary. He died in the most humiliating and painful way in order to suffer the punishment for all our sins. In all of this he served others, not himself. And he won the victory for us by his humility, by his weakness, by his suffering and death.
Do we have the same attitude as our Savior? Are we willing to put others ahead of ourselves and be gracious about it? Are we willing to do the humble and lowly work that too many refuse to do? Or are we so puffed up with pride that we refuse to go out of our way to help another? Are we so full of ourselves that we refuse to pick up the trash on the sidewalk and throw into a bin? Do we even at times agree to do a humble job, but then gripe about it the whole time?
Such an attitude is pure sinfulness in which pride and self-importance lead us away from having the attitude of Jesus. Hymn 100 catches the attitude of our Savior King so well:
A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth.
Our guilt and evil bearing
And laden with the sins of earth,
None else the burden sharing.
Goes patient on, grows weak and faint,
To slaughter led without complaint.
Because Jesus did this, your sins and my sins of pride, and self-importance, and complaining, and all the rest are freely and fully forgiven. His attitude of humility overwhelms us and causes us to act in the same way in thankfulness for what we have received.
II. The mind set of Jesus also shines in us when we show a willingness to let others exalt us.
What does our text say? “Therefore God highly exalted him.” That’s what we celebrate in a week - the exaltation of Jesus Christ. Or as we call it, his resurrection from the dead. As God raises Jesus, he is making it clear that the work of Jesus is perfect and complete. All are declared not guilty. Because Jesus was perfect in all he did, he is exalted to his position of power and authority at his Father’s right hand. That’s what the Ascension is all about. Jesus, the humble slave who served every human being, is now ruling over all things in heaven and on earth. He is our King.
So Paul says, “And gave him the name that is above every name.” That name is Jesus. Peter and John, when they were hauled before the Jewish ruling council, made it clear why Jesus is the name above every name. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Consequently, this is the name that everyone in heaven and on earth and under the earth will have to confess. “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow.” All will on the last day. Those who did not believe will be forced to admit their error. But it will be too late for them. We who believe in Jesus as our Savior will gladly kneel before him, rejoicing in his coming, rejoicing in his saving work.
We, too, will exalt Jesus. We exalt Jesus by trusting in him every day. We exalt Jesus by confessing his name publicly. We exalt Jesus by pointing out that he is the only way to get to heaven.
Will we follow the example of Jesus and let others exalt us? Or will we become endless self-promoters? How tempting it is for us to act like children, constantly saying, “Look what I did.” How tempting to toot our own horns, wave around our credentials and try to impress people with our importance. How tempting when we do something good to basically beg for a compliment.
None of this behavior is in the spirit of Jesus Christ. Jesus was not self-serving, he was always people-serving. And he is still serving us by giving us the daily assurance that we are his children and that our sins are removed.
My friends, walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Let God do the exalting. He already has. He adopted us sinners as his sons and daughters. He has called you his own people by grace and through the faith worked in us by the Holy Spirit. Think of it this way: one word of praise from our God and Father should be more important to you than a thousand words of praise from a sinful human being.
What is that word of praise? It is best summed up by the words from Jesus’ parable of the talents. “Well done, good and faithful servant.” We are servants who want to faithfully and humbly carry out the Lord’s work here on earth. He will exalt his children in due time. While we wait, may we always keep the attitude of humility that we see in our Savior Jesus. Amen.